Deut 12_1-14 Worshiping God His way (2)
Worshipping God His way
Corporate worship, Fellowship and private worship
Call to worship
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Doxology Hymn no 331: “Majesty”
Grace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
1. Father we thank You (Scripture in Song)
2. Come let us worship our Redeemer (MP 97)
Hymn No 118: “The heavens declare your glory Lord”
Prayer of Adoration and Invocation
Scripture Reading Revelation 4:1-11
Prayer Confession of sins
Declaration of pardoning
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
Hymn No 251: “I heard the voice of Jesus say”
Offering and Dedication
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading Deuteronomy 12:4-19
Sermon “Corporate Worship, Fellowship and private worship
Dear brother and sister in the Lord Jesus Christ,
There is a strong notion in some churches, or branches of churches, and it has not escaped the Presbyterian Church of Australia, that all forms of gathering of the people of God is worship. What lies behind this notion probably has to do with the understanding of the place of the Christian Sabbath. There is the argument that since the Sabbath is something of the Old Testament, the New Testament does not teach anything of a day of worship anymore. What follows logically is the argument that there is not such a thing as a Day of the Lord on which his people gather in corporate worship, as opposed to other occasions of fellowship and private devotions of families. What we have, according to this teaching, is occasions of fellowship with the purpose of building one another up in faith.
Well, there is something of the truth in this argument, but I don’t believe all of the truth is contained in this concept. Even a study of the Westminster Confession of Faith will show that we have to distinguish between corporate worship on the Lord’s Day and Fellowship of believers on other days of the week, and further, private worship and family devotions.
Chapter 21 of the Confession, section 6 makes the following statement:
Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the Gospel either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as in private families, daily, and in secret each one by himself; so, more solemnly, in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by His Word or providence, calls thereunto.
What this paragraph teaches us is this:
1. The place or building or the direction in which one looks does not make prayer or religious worship more acceptable. God can be worshipped everywhere and anywhere.
2. What is important is that God is worshipped in spirit and in truth. This means that God is to be worshipped His way.
3. We need to distinguish between different forms of worship: personal, family, and corporate.
4. God ordained all these forms of worship, but each has his own place in the worship of God.
Let’s take what we have learned from the Confession and test it against the Word of God, which is the ultimate standard of our teaching. Deuteronomy 12 does not give us all the answers, and it is certainly not the only chapter in the Bible which has something to say about the question, but it will profit us to listen to the principles found in it.
; God ordained corporate worship
; In the Old Testament: Specific place
In steering the people of Israel away from the high place where the godless nations worshipped before they entered the Promised Land, lest they be trapped to worship God in the way these people worshipped their gods, God specifically commanded them to go to the place He would appoint fir his worship.
; Now this was not a new thing to Israel. The very fact that God had the Tabernacle made according to his own plan was in indication to the people that they could not worship God wherever they pleased. As a matter of fact, they could not go their own way, unless the Lord moved in the cloud or the pillar of fire. If these remained stationery, the people remained stationary. They were accustomed to the fact that they could only worship where God showed Himself present.
The command then came through Moses:
But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; (Deuteronomy 12:5)
This was repeated in verse 13 and 14:
Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you. (Deuteronomy 12:13-14)
The question is now, what did their corporate worship look like and what did they do when they got to the place God ordained for it?
Keep in mind the background: don’t do as the other people do, and don’t do as everyone sees fit. The fact is that the heathen nations did get together for corporate worship of their gods. Corporate worship was not the problem. The problem was the where and the how.
The question to the how and the what of their worship is partly answered in verse 6 and 11:
… there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (Deuteronomy 12:6)
Verse 26 uses another term to describe these offerings before God: it uses the “consecrated things” and “what you vowed to give”.
Let’s just for a few moments look at these sacrifices:
|Burnt offering||Bull, ram or male bird (dove or young pigeon) without defect; wholly consume||Voluntary act of worship; atonement sin in general, expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God|
|Grain Offering||Grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, baked bread, salt, no yeast or honey. Accompanied the burnt offering||Voluntary act of worship; recognition of God’s goodness and provision; devotion to God|
|Fellowship Offering||Any animal without defect; variety of breads||Voluntary act of worship; thanksgiving and fellowship (communal meal)|
|Sin Offering||1. Young bull – priest2. Male goat – leader3. Female goat or lamb – common person4. Dove or pigeon – the poor5. Tenth of an ephah of fine flour – the very poor||Mandatory atonement for all sins; forgiveness of sins; cleansing from defilement|
|Guilt offering||Ram or lamb||Mandatory for unintentional sin; cleansing from defilement; restitution|
The procedure was usually as follows:
1. Sin and guilt offering
2. Burnt offering
3. Fellowship offering (vow offerings, thank offerings, freewill offerings.
Sin had to be dealt with, then the sinner committed himself to God, followed by the fellowship with the priest and other people of God.
The command of the Lord is: don’t do these things in a place other than appointed by God. These were the special things that constituted their worship before God.
; But this did not exclude them from having some form of fellowship around the gifts of God in other places.
Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. (Deuteronomy 12:15)
To have the private thanksgiving before God because of his goodness and mercies shown to any Israelite away from the temple was allowed. Further, there they could have these private or unofficial fellowships even with the ceremonially unclean people. There were those with a skin decease, or those who by accident touched a corps, or women straight after child birth. They could join in, because there was a very clear distinction between official corporate worship in the place God appointed, and other fellowship occasions in private homes or public places. That is the point we need to understand: ; God distinguished between the official and the unofficial, the dedicated and the undedicated, the corporate and the private.
; God ordained corporate worship
In the New Testament: No specific place
The early Christian church understood this. The day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ very soon became known as the Day of the Lord. On these days the believers got together and on these days they had corporate fellowship.
; They understood that the Sabbath of the Old Testament was now fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and that all the demands of the Old Testament law for this day were fulfilled. There Sabbath was a Christian Sabbath, without all the frills of the ceremonial law. It was a day of rest from sin, and the beginning of the new dispensation in Christ Who now began a new creation, a new order. ; He did not do away with the principle of a day specifically devoted to the services of the Lord. That remained. But now it has a complete new meaning: the old dispensation of sacrifices is fulfilled in our Lord, and now, more than ever, can we really enjoy the presence of God as a redeemed people in the blood of the Lamb. Now we understand that the Sabbath day is not abolished, but given its real meaning, because of Jesus Christ. And so it should be in the church today.
; That also means that we do not go to a certain place to worship. We don’t go to a temple, and we don’t need to come to Wills street to worship. Nothing compelled anyone to declare this block of land and this place to be holier than other places. We could have built this building on any other block. But the important thing is this: on the Day of the Lord, we in St Andrews come to this place, once dedicated to the sole purpose of corporate worship.
; We understand that there is a difference between private and family worship and fellowship in general. We can have all these things in this building (we even had a oratorio this afternoon in this building); but on the Day of the Lord, all of us are obliged to, as members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, be here for corporate worship.
Here we don’t have the offering of bulls and lams and doves; or fine flour and olive oil. But what those elements of worship meant then, now fulfilled in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, are still applicable for us. ; The Lamb and the sacrificial animal were the pointers to the sacrifice of Jesus – we still need that to have communion with God, we still need the assurance of sins forgiven. We don’t have animals to make it possible to have fellowship with the Lord and one another, but we need to fellowship in corporate worship. ; We don’t need to first of all offer grain in order to thank God for his grace, mercies and provision; but the need to that God for his mercies and provision – this we do in corporate worship. ; We don’t need any bull or ram or bird for atonement to express our devotion to the Lord and complete commitment into his service; but it does not take away the need for commitment and devotion – now possible in and through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Let’s sum it up:
· ; God ordained a day of worship and dedication to Him; because of Christ it is called the Christian Sabbath of the Day of the Lord.
· ; God ordained for his church to have corporate worship in his day. Because Jesus Christ fulfilled the sacrificial system of the Old Testament we should not use elements of the old.
· ; Corporate worship is usually conducted on the Lord’s Day, but is not limited to the Lord’s Day only. Any day or time of the week is good for corporate worship.
· ; Corporate worship is pleasing to God where his people worship His way; it focuses on his glory, his acts of grace and mercy, his righteousness fulfilled in Jesus Christ and commitment to Him only. This is different from fellowship, which is aimed at mutual edification.
· ; God ordained that we distinguish between corporate worship, family worship and private worship. All these are not the same as other events of Christian fellowship.
· ; Because Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of the sacrificial law, we don’t need to worship in a specific place, or in specific directions.
Hymn no 335: “Saviour again to your dear Name”
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6:24-26)